Sweet Dreams Make for Smarter Teens

No exercise at night: Late-night practices and games make it very hard for kids to slow down and relax — a prerequisite for a good night's rest. For little kids, watch out for pre-bedtime roughhousing, which is also too stimulating. Don't try to tire your child out, because "crashing" to sleep doesn't produce the kind of rest he/she needs.

Embrace the dark side: Light is a major "wake-up" cue, so install blackout shades in kids' rooms, and try dimming the lights before bed. Also reduce screen time before bed: If necessary, take the computer out of the bedroom when it's "lights out." The glow from the TV or computer screen may be enough to keep your teen's motor running. Remove the cell phone, too!

Eliminate caffeine from your child's diet. Too many sodas during the day or chocolate for dessert can wreak havoc at bedtime. So can certain medications. Some cold medicine contains decongestants that are stimulants, and certain prescription pain medications may also contain caffeine. Check with your pharmacist or family doctor to find out if your child's medications fall into this category.

Avoid weekend "jet lag": Many people believe that it's OK for kids to catch up on their sleep over the weekend, so we let their routine fall apart. Instead, however, they end up suffering from the equivalent of jet lag and have to reset their biological clocks Monday morning. Try to stick to their weekly bedtime routine as much as possible. Also let them take short naps during the week if necessary, but get them to bed at a reasonable hour. The goal is at least eight hours of sleep, and 10 is preferable!

Walk the walk: We can't yell at our kids to get to bed if we're burning the candle at both ends ourselves. Look at your family's calendar. Make rest and sleep a priority and model that commitment. That means being willing to say no to things. It's a tough challenge, particularly at this time of year when there are so many events coming down the road.

Read more about kids and sleep in New York Magazine's recent articles "Snooze or Lose" and "How to Get Kids to Sleep More."

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